Review of Golden Fool by Robin Hobb

November 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Golden FoolGolden Fool (The Tawny Man, Book 2)
By Robin Hobb, Narrated by James Langton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 25 July 2014[UNABRIDGED] – 25 hours, 56 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / Farseer / assassin /

Publisher Summary:

Prince Dutiful has been rescued from his Piebald kidnappers and the court has resumed its normal rhythms. There FitzChivalry Farseer, gutted by the loss of his wolf bondmate, must take up residence at Buckkeep as a journeyman assassin.

Posing as a bodyguard, Fitz becomes the eyes and ears behind the walls, guiding a kingdom straying closer to civil strife each day. Amid a multitude of problems, Fitz must ensure that no one betrays the Prince’s secret – one that could topple the throne: that he, like Fitz, possesses the dread “beast magic.” Only Fitz’s friendship with the Fool brings him solace. But even that is shattered when devastating revelations from the Fool’s past are exposed. Bereft of support and adrift in intrigue, Fitz finds that his biggest challenge may be simply to survive.

Golden Fool picks up directly where Fool’s Errand leaves off. Dutiful needs someone to teach him how to use his magics and Fitz (aka Tom) gets caught up further in the intrigues of the court at Buckkeep. Dutiful’s betrothal ceremony with his future bride from the OutIslands is set to go off and there are also Piebalds somewhere out in the Six Dutchies…what could possibly go wrong? Fitz needs to figure out what is going on by any means possible to prevent problems for the farseer reign.

Golden Fool‘s plot didn’t really feel like a normal plot to me – it feels like a middle book in a trilogy that covers the events after the initial setup but before the epic conclusion of the trilogy. That doesn’t mean the book is any less enjoyable, just that it doesn’t have as many peaks and valleys with tension and the climax of the book. The book ends in such a way that you have to go on to the third book afterwards.

Hobb’s ability to write compelling prose continues on in this novel and her characters are great. FitzChivalry really gets to be at odds with just about everyone in this book and there were times I felt like I was listening to a fantasy version of the Jerry Springer show. It’s kind of amazing how the best of intentions and misunderstandings can extend gulfs between people and Hobb does a great job exploring there.

Hobb also brings up questions of prejudices and how “normal” is defined. The main overarching prejudice is of course the hate people have for the “Old Blood” people who have beast magic but there are also other instances involving intellectual disabilities and sexual identity too. It’s interesting to see how characters from outside those groups relate but especially interesting to see how those within the same group relate to each other and how some prejudices are overcome while other are….well you’ll see.

As for the audio side of things, James Langton continues to do a great job in Golden Fool. His voices are still great except I don’t understand why it sounds like the queen (from the mountain kingdom) has what sounds like a French accent while the people from the out islands also have what sounds like a French accent. The Bingtown traders sound Italian so I’m not sure why the out islanders wouldn’t have some other accent. Some word pronunciations also bother me but overall, Langton’s performance drew me in so well that all of these were minor gripes by comparison.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb

October 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Fool's Errand by Robin HobbFool’s Errand (Tawny Man Book 1)
By Robin Hobb; Narrated by James Langton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 15 July 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 24 hours, 47 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / Farseer / assassin / witch /

Publisher summary:

For fifteen years FitzChivalry Farseer has lived in self-imposed exile, assumed to be dead by almost all who once cared about him. But now, into his isolated life, visitors begin to arrive: Fitz’s mentor from his assassin days; a hedge-witch who foresees the return of a long-lost love; and the Fool, the former White Prophet, who beckons Fitz to fulfill his destiny.

Then comes the summons he cannot ignore. Prince Dutiful, the young heir to the Farseer throne, has vanished. Fitz, possessed of magical skills both royal and profane, is the only one who can retrieve him in time for his betrothal ceremony, thus sparing the Six Duchies profound political embarrassment – or worse. But even Fitz does not suspect the web of treachery that awaits him – or how his loyalties will be tested to the breaking point.

Fool’s Errand takes place years after the events of Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy and does not disappoint. The story is as well written as Hobb’s previous works and is great from beginning to end. The story kind of fills the gap between the trilogies and explains in greater detail the events concluding the Farseer trilogy while also building into this new adventure.

The story is kind of broken into a summation of past events and then embarking on something new. The summation works great as a device to those of us who read the Farseer trilogy to remind us where things left off and gives some greater closure to the events concluding that trilogy. The summation would also work well for those new to the Farseers to introduce the world and explain a bit of the back story that defines FitzChivalry’s motives. That said, if you haven’t read the Farseer trilogy and don’t like spoilers, definitely read that trilogy before Tawny Man.

Robin Hobb’s writing flows so well that even seemingly mundane tasks and everyday things are a joy to experience. She really knows how to make you care about the characters and builds a plot that pushes those characters. There are some truly great and terrible moments in this book that I just can’t say without ruining so much of the story. There were a few times that I didn’t think things made total sense but the story is just so enjoyable it really didn’t matter.

On the audio side of things, James Langton did a great job. It was really hard going from Paul Boehmer’s performance in the Farseer Trilogy to James Langton in this trilogy. I loved Boehmer’s performance and his voice became the characters’ voices to me. Even though it was jarring at first, Langton’s voices and narration became natural to my ear after only a few hours. He does a great job doing voices that fit the different characters and his sulky/sullen cat voice has to be one of the most fitting voices I could imagine. Some of his pronunciations threw me a bit too but overall I enjoyed his performance.

Everything together makes a story that really takes you places. By the end of this story you’ll be back in the intrigue of the court at Buckkeep and want to go on to Golden Fool.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

September 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Fool's AssassinFool’s Assassin (Fitz and the Fool #1)
By Robin Hobb; Narrated by Elliot Hill
27 hours, 18 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 12 August 2014
Themes: / fantasy / assassin / fool /

Publisher summary:

FitzChivalry – royal bastard and former king’s assassin – has left his life of intrigue behind. As far as the rest of the world knows, FitzChivalry Farseer is dead and buried. Masquerading as Tom Badgerlock, Fitz is now married to his childhood sweetheart, Molly, and leading the quiet life of a country squire.

Though Fitz is haunted by the disappearance of the Fool, who did so much to shape Fitz into the man he has become, such private hurts are put aside in the business of daily life, at least until the appearance of menacing, pale-skinned strangers casts a sinister shadow over Fitz’s past…and his future.

Now, to protect his new life, the former assassin must once again take up his old one.

When I first heard confirmation that the rumors of a new Fitz and Fool series were true, I was full of mixed emotions. I loved Fool’s Fate. I’ve enjoyed all of Ms. Hobb’s books but that is the only one I’ve given 5 stars too. I was just so satisfied with how it ended. There were questions, but all the big things were resolved in the end.

So would this book ruin my favorite book? Well not yet, but it certainly hasn’t alleviated my fears that the events of this trilogy might tarnish things for me.

Like many books by Ms. Hobb, things start out slow. I don’t mean that in a negative way, however. Somehow she is able to write in such a way that I don’t mind the day to day life of her books. Despite my trepidation, it just felt nice to be back with characters I love. If you’re looking for a lot of action or a flashy start, you’ll be disappointed. I imagine that anyone picking up this book is already going to be a Robin Hobb fan and used to her style.

More than anything, Ms. Hobb’s writing is able to evoke strong emotions in me as I read. Love, anger, happiness, frustration. Few other authors can make me despise a new character so quickly or completely. Similarly Fitz continues to frustrate me with the way he does things in a way that is just all too human. Often times the protagonist in a fantasy book faces external adversity and rises to the occasion. Meanwhile Fitz is frequently his own worst enemy. Poor Ms. Hobb loves putting him through the ringer too, and this book is no different.

I had three issues with this book. First, the series is called Fitz & Fool. The book is called Fool’s Assassin. So why did it take so long for us to see the Fool? He’s mentioned often enough, but I want to spend time with him just as I am spending time with Fitz. So far this series seems a lot more like Farseer than Tawny Man in that regard.

The second thing was the addition of a POV besides Fitz. I guess I’m a very jealous reader. I originally hoped it was a one off thing early in the book, but when it turned out to be a regular thing it bothered me. I felt robbed of time I could be spending with Fitz. By the end of the book it grew on me and I came to look forward to those chapters nearly as much as I did the Fitz ones.

The final issue I had was the ending. I know this is the first book of a trilogy, but I hate cliffhanger type endings, and this one seemed pretty bad to me. If you’re the type of person who hates waiting for the next book, you may be better off waiting until the final book is either published or has a release date. It’s going to a be a LONG wait for me until book 2.

Overall I really liked, but didn’t love this book. I’m still pretty nervous about what may happen next. I think that above all shows how great a writer Ms. Hobb is to fill me with both a sense of anticipation and dread for the next book in the series.

As a narrator, I really didn’t like Elliot Hill much at first. He grew on me by the end though. I don’t normally hear characters speaking in my head as I read and haven’t had any issue listening to books I had previously read and finding the voices wrong.

I did here for some reason. Fitz just didn’t sound right to me. Same thing with Molly. Bee seemed fine, but really she sounded almost like Molly. I liked his voice for Chade though.

Mr. Hill does a few voices and accents and does a fine job of it. It just took me a very long time to get used to. By the end though I seemed to get over it. I likely won’t do the audio again unless I get another review copy, but I’d guess many people won’t have the same issues I did with it.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Deadly Sting by Jennifer Estep

January 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review
Deadly StingDeadly Sting (Elemental Assassin #8)
By Jennifer Estep, Read by Lauren Fortgang
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours

Themes: / urban fantasy / assassin / museums / magic /

Publisher summary:

Red is definitely my color. Good thing, because in my line of work, I end up wearing it a lot. Most people shy away from blood, but for an assassin like me — Gin Blanco, aka the Spider — it’s just part of the job. Still, it would be nice to get a night off, especially when I’m attending the biggest gala event of the summer at Briartop, Ashland’s fanciest art museum. But it’s just not meant to be. For this exhibition of my late nemesis’s priceless possessions is not only the place to be seen, but the place to be robbed and taken hostage at gunpoint as well. No sooner did I get my champagne than a bunch of the unluckiest thieves ever burst into the museum and started looting the place. Unlucky why? Because I brought along a couple of knives in addition to my killer dress. Add these to my Ice and Stone magic, and nothing makes me happier than showing the bad guys why red really is my color.

Our story starts out with Gin moping …she misses Owen and while she is trying to hide it. Her friends and family can feel her despair. Finn tries to shake things out a bit by manipulating her into attending an event where all of Mab Monroe’s treasures are being showcased…which is awesome because Gin has to get a dress! Finn and Eva also have an ulterior motive of getting Gin and Owen to talk.  Which does not go so well since Owen has a date and then there is a heist by a group of giants. The giants are banding together because they are sick of being body guards and being taken for granted so they are taking their place in the criminal empire…or so it would seem.

As I read this book I kept thinking of the movie Die Hard and in the end it works out, actually I think it more than worked out the book is a lot more fun than some of the others. I listened to it on audio and as always the narrator Lauren Fortgang does a great job bringing the story to life. It is funny I am not sure if they switched narrators that I would continue with the story. Anyway back to the book the story is very succinct and the plot has a good solid pace. This book could have easily been a novella but the plot was strong enough to keep me entertained throughout the entire book. This time around Gin actually felt more like an assassin, even though she was still bumbling around it made much more sense.  It was also nice to see Gin getting mixed up in something where it was not about someone trying to kill her for revenge or an elemental trying to collect power. While she does not get any new powers in this book she seemed to use her stone and ice magic with a lot more finesse. It was also wonderful to see how she choose to deal with Jonah he has been a burr on her butt for a long time.

While I enjoyed the plot of this story I did not care for the lack of growth in the characters. At the end of Widow’s Web one could understand how and why Owen was mixed up and confused. After certain events in this book he should have been crystal clear and even at the end there was a lack of resolution. Add to that Gin still has a need to shoulder everything emotional on her own shoulders almost to the point where it does not make sense. Speaking of things that don’t make sense is Gin can freeze and object and make it animate to a degree so why can’t she just freeze people? The water villain in the last story did it was water so why not ice??

While the lack of character growth was disappointing I did enjoy the overall story. It looks like we have a new nemesis on the scene bringing about a new story arch which could be interesting.

Posted by Dawn V.

Review of Widow’s Web by Jennifer Estep

December 25, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Widow's WebWidow’s Web (Elemental Assassin #7)
By Jennifer Estep; Performed by Lauren Fortgang
Publisher: Brilliance Audio; Audible 2012
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 discs; 10 hours, 43 minutes

Themes: / urban fantasy / assassin / southern / casinos / romance /

Publisher summary:

I used to murder people for money, but lately it’s become more of a survival technique. Once an assassin, always an assassin. So much for being plain old Gin Blanco. With every lowlife in Ashland gunning for me, I don’t need another problem, but a new one has come to town anyway. Salina might seem like a sweet Southern belle, but she’s really a dangerous enemy whose water elemental magic can go head-to-head with my own Ice and Stone power. Salina also has an intimate history with my lover, Owen Grayson, and now that she’s back, she thinks he’s hers for the taking. Salina’s playing a mysterious game that involves a shady local casino owner with a surprising connection to Owen. But they call me the Spider for a reason. I’m going to untangle her deadly scheme, even if it leaves my love affair hanging by a thread.

In this episode of Gin Blanco’s life, things are going well since her return to Ashland. Then one night after an especially nice dinner Owen and Gin run into Selena, Owen’s ex that he may or may not have gotten over. Selena is more than what meets the eye – so Gin is worried about her relationship with Owen, we have a new character who maybe setting the spider up or maybe he is a friend and in the middle of everything Eva asks Gin to do something where the stakes are almost to high.

I seem to have a love hate relationship with this series. The issue I have in most of these books is Gin is like the worst assassin ever yet she seems to think she is the best. I just want her for once to be able to kill someone without getting her butt handed to her. When we left Gin last time she was emotionally strong and I loved it. In this book she is back to being whiny and insecure. The other challenge in this book was with Owen normally he is much more decisive but this time the rose colored glasses just felt like to much.

The best thing about this book is the introduction to a few new characters. I also loved the beginning and Gins planned attack it was nice to see her with a plan!! I am also enjoying the dream sequences that Gin seems to be having in the past few books, I wonder if she or we will figure out why all these dreams now and what they mean in total not just as lessons she needs to remember to deal with the situation at hand. I was also impressed with Eva, I have always liked her as a character so it is good to see her growing up – but um the romantic factor there is very very ICKY!!

I listened to this version on audio and the reader is the lovely Lauren Fortgang. I really enjoy the voices she gives to the characters it is like the perfect amount of southern charm.

Posted by Dawn V.